Treating Your Teen's Acne and Its Impact on Her Self-Esteem
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Some cases may be more severe, and may benefit from a stronger treatment such as isotretinoin, “a vitamin A analog that is very effective to help control severe acne,” according to Dr. Morel. “However, it also has a lot of significant side effects, so it’s not prescribed without careful consideration of the situation.”
There is another option for girls, she says: Certain birth control pills are FDA-approved to treat moderate to severe acne. These work largely by controlling androgen and other hormones involved with oil production in the skin.
There are some day-to-day lifestyle changes that may help to reduce acne, too—but some solutions you may have heard won’t necessarily make a difference.
“Everyone asks, ‘If I don’t eat chocolate, will it cure my acne?’—and the answer is probably no,” Dr. Morel says. One study has examined a possible link between drinking excess milk and acne, but “a moderate amount of milk should not affect your acne.”
Ongoing studies are also looking into the effects of a diet low in refined sugars. While a definite link between acne and refined sugars has not been proven, “certainly, we know [cutting back on them] is good for your health,” Dr. Morel says. “Researchers are looking into the effects.”
When it comes to showering, she says, “once a day is fine. Acne is not caused by dirty skin, so we want to be careful about over-scrubbing,” whether with a gentle cleansing or medicated acne wash.
Another important point of advice: “No picking,” Dr. Morel advises. “Popping pimples leaves more marks.”
And for girls who want to use a liquid cover-up, look for a product that says it won’t clog pores (“noncomedogenic” may be on the label)—and the same goes for sunscreen, which Dr. Morel recommends because the marks that acne leave become darker when exposed to the sun.
One last bit of advice: Get a full night’s sleep! One study has examined the correlation between a lack of sleep and an increase in acne flare-ups.
Acne is a normal part of growing up, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it, Dr. Morel says. Even mild acne should be monitored and taken care of, either through gentle cleansing or, if that isn’t enough, the help of
Emotional Impacts of Acne
Even with treatment, acne will not necessarily go away overnight, and parents should watch out for signs that their kids may be depressed or anxious about their skin.
“The child might appear more withdrawn, irritable,” Dr. Weder says, and “might not want to go out as much.” Watch out for any indication that your child might be sad or embarrassed; for example, your child “might comment a lot on how they look,” she says, or they “might say that they’re not likable and not attractive.”
Dr. Weder recommends that parents try to “normalize” the situation for their children. Let them know that “a lot of kids have acne—it’s something a lot of people struggle with,” she says.
In some cases, taking your child to a professional therapist or psychiatrist may be necessary. “It’s a case-by-case basis,” Dr. Weder says. Talk to your
children; if they don’t seem to get better, then you should seek help.